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Amazon Web Services Hit With Illinois Biometric Privacy Suit

Nov. 15, 2019, 9:43 PM

Amazon Web Services Inc. violated an Illinois privacy statute by not having a publicly available policy for retaining and destroying biometric data, a new lawsuit alleges.

The cloud computing subsidiary for Amazon.com Inc. also failed to inform plaintiff Martin Ragsdale how long it would retain his biometric data and failed to obtain his informed, written consent before obtaining and storing it, he alleged in a Nov. 15 putative class complaint.

The lawsuit, filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, highlights the risks that companies, including third parties, can face when collecting and storing biometric information and identifiers under state laws.

Amazon Web Services offers cloud storage services for businesses that handle biometric information, including, for example, commercial customers that require employees to check in and out of work shifts using biometrics, according to the complaint. Amazon stores the information derived from biometric identifiers that its commercial customers collect, Ragsdale alleged.

The Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act covers such information and applies to entities that store data in addition to those that collect the information, Ragsdale alleged. The law’s “requirements bestow a right to privacy in biometrics and a right to make an informed decision when electing whether to provide or withhold biometrics,” he said in the complaint.

Private entities such as Amazon Web Services can’t store biometric identifiers or information, regardless of whether it converts the data to a different format, unless they first comply with the provisions of the law, Ragsdale alleged.

Cause of Action: Violations of the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act

Relief Requested: Class certification, injunctive and equitable relief, statutory damages, and attorneys fees and costs

Response: Amazon Web Services didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Attorneys: McGuire Law PC represents the plaintiff. Counsel for Amazon couldn’t be immediately identified.

The case is Ragsdale v. Amazon Web Services, Inc., Ill. Cir. Ct., No. 2019-CH-13251, complaint 11/15/19.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sara Merken in Washington at smerken@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Hughes at jhughes@bloomberglaw.com; Keith Perine at kperine@bloomberglaw.com